Many of us have a selection of favoured home exercises that provide a testing workout for most parts of the body, but the back is often not included in that, for the simple reason that it’s a bit trickier to target without weights to row.
Trickier, but not impossible. In this workout created by Jo McLelland, co-founder and head trainer at London gym Body Society, you’ll give your back an effective workout using just bodyweight moves and one resistance band row. It’s worth doing, because the benefits you’ll get as a result are considerable.
“Regularly training the back can lead to a reduction in back pain, improved mobility and posture, says Watson. “By developing strength here, there will be an improvement in the body’s ability to complete day-to-day activities.”
Home Back Workout
1 Cat-cow pose
Sets 1 Reps 10-15
“This is a great way to warm up the spine, and improve balance and posture,” says Watson. “Additionally, this pose can help prevent back pain when practised on a regular basis.”
Get on all fours with your back horizontal and hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale, slowly arch your back, allowing your belly to sink towards the floor. Inhale and round your spine, pushing your belly towards your spine and pulling your pelvic floor up towards your navel. Keep your head neutral – don’t force the chin to the chest.
2 Standing T
Sets 1 Reps 15-20
Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight lean forwards, hinging at the hips. Raise your hands out to the sides to create a T shape, thumbs pointing up. You can increase the difficulty using 2kg dumbbells if you have them.
3 Standing Y
Sets 1 Reps 15-20
Set up in the same way as with the standing T – stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight lean forwards, hinging at the hips – but form the letter Y by moving your arms out and further up, at about 45° to your head. Again, you can use 2kg weights to increase the difficulty.
4 Seated banded row
Sets 1 Reps 15-20
Sit on the floor and place a resistance band – a strap or long loop – around your feet. Bend your knees slightly, sit tall and hold the band by your knees. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and draw your arms back until the band meets your upper ribs. Hold at this tension point for one to two seconds. Slowly return to the starting position.
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5 Wall angel
“This exercise helps improve your shoulder and upper-back mobility,” says Watson, “and builds strength in the glutes, lower back and core.”
Stand with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet away from the wall and slide your back down until there is a 90° bend at both your hips and knees. Bring your elbows and the backs of your hands up to the wall, so your elbows are level with your shoulders and your hands are at head height. From here slide your arms up and down the wall.
6 Alternating Superman
Sets 1 Reps 3 each side
“This is a good exercise to improve lower-back and core strength,” says Watson.
Lie face down with your arms extended forward past your head. Inhale and lift the opposing arm and leg about 15cm off the ground, and hold for three to five seconds. Exhale and relax. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
7 High plank
Sets 1 Time 15sec
Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders. Step one leg back at a time with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Keep your core tight and don’t let your hips dip to the floor because this will put pressure on your back.
As your core gets stronger, work up in 15-second increments to holding this position for up to two minutes. You can also increase the difficulty by adding shoulder taps. Lift one hand and tap it on the opposite shoulder, then repeat on the other side, keeping your body as still as possible.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.